March 21 2019
SALEM, Oregon - Governor Kate Brown Friday said that Oregon's switch to a system that automatically registers voters a "phenomenal success." She said the move led to a more diversified electorate in the state as well as an increase in voter registration among minorities.
"Registration is a barrier to people participating in this process," Brown said while delivering remarks at Politico's "State Solutions Conference."
"Voting is a fundamental right of being a citizen, and people across the country should have the ability to access this fundamental right without barriers like registration," she said.
Brown also said the initiative helped Oregon, which once sat at the bottom of state rankings for the number of registered voters who were people of color, earn the second-highest ranking for the number of people of color registered to vote in the country.
Brown said "the new voters under the automatic voter registration system … are less urban, they are less wealthy, and they are much more diverse than our typical voters that either register online or through the paper process."
The Oregon Democrat also partly credited her state's voting system, which was implemented in 2015, for the increase in voter turnout seen in last year's midterm elections.
Brown said her administration is already exploring other ways automatic voter registration can be carried out by other agencies in her state in addition the Department of Motor Vehicles, where the system is currently being implemented.
As for critics of initiatives aimed at increasing turnout among voters, Brown said: "I think the good news is, in Oregon, we actually want people to vote in our state."
Brown also pushed back at critics who claimed the voting system benefits Democrats more than Republicans, saying she estimates that "the [party affiliation] numbers are on par with about the registration."
The governor also pointed out that voters registered under the system are not registered with party affiliations. Voters instead have to manually change their party affiliation status in order to be able to take part in the state's elections.
Photo: Second term Oregon Governor Kate Brown (center), © Getty Images